Profile: Sydney Goldman '21
Major/minor: HSSP with a minor in Hispanic Studies
Year abroad: Summer 2019
Study Abroad Program: IFSA/Summer Mexico Public Health and Medical Spanish in the Yucatan
Reason you chose this program: I chose this program because I really wanted to be able to explore public health in a different country. By learning about public health infrastructure in other countries, I was really able to reflect on the American public health system. Also, another huge perk was getting to go to Cuba!
Favorite classes: My really loved both my classes, but I think my favorite was contemporary public health. I was able to write (and research) a paper on vaccine usage in the United States focusing on religious populations. This class also transitioned with us when we went to Cuba! We talked to a doctor in Cuba and she taught us all about their healthcare infrastructure and the visible differences between healthcare in Cuba, Mexico, and the United States
How did you incorporate your Brandeis areas of study into your abroad experience? My HSSP major related directly to my contemporary public health class. We traveled all over the Yucatán Peninsula learning about different types of medicine, especially in rural towns.
Housing situation: I lived with the world’s most incredible host family. It was definitely a transition since they didn’t know any English, but it ended up being the best experience ever. Father’s Day is such an important day, and although it was only my second day with them, the entire family made me feel like I had been there for weeks.
What were some parts of your identity that you thought about while considering study abroad that other students may want to talk to you about? Honestly, the biggest part of my identity that made me think twice was being American. Being in not super touristy Mexico and Cuba, I was nervous to introduce myself as an American. By the end of the trip, I had lots of conversations with locals (in both countries) about politics and the United States. There were so many eye-opening conversations, and it ended up no longer being a concern. Mexican hospitality was 100% the case and they had no problem understanding that not everyone thought the same way.
Best memory: My favorite memory was the last weekend of my time abroad after our classes had ended. Our whole group became really close and we ended up road tripping five hours across the Yucatán Peninsula to Tulum. It was amazing getting to bond with my friends one last time. I can honestly say I still talk to the majority of my abroad group, and they will be some of my lifelong friends.
Greatest challenge: My greatest challenge was probably the public transportation system. It is a lot of getting off at one stop and getting on at one down the street and around the corner. And while it seems like a pretty simple challenge, the most popular way to get around Mérida is by bus. Another challenge with the bus system is there are a LOT of different types of buses. Normally, they don’t stop at a stop unless there are people waiting to get on or someone wants to get off. You have to press the button to let the drive know or you have to yell “Abajo” to let them know you want to get off. Originally, not the easiest to figure out, but by the end of my time in Mexico, it became second nature.
What you know now that you didn’t know before: One of the things that I didn’t know before that I do now is the incredibly deep history and culture. The Yucatán Peninsula was home to the Mayans, and Mayan culture is still so rich and prevalent there today. Some of the older generations still speak Maya and there are always signs in three language, English, Spanish, and Maya.
Fact about Mexico that you think people would be surprised to learn: One fact about my host country that I think people would be interested to know is that they have native flamingos!